Lover. Mutt. Who is Katniss Everdeen?
Thank you to Lbug84 for betaing!
Peeta's Paint Box
"When was the last time you slept, Peeta?"
I look up at the man dressed in white, confused. Slept?
Dr. Aurelius looks at me. The fluorescent light reflects in his glasses so I can't really see his eyes. "You've been awake for nearly 48 hours. Don't you remember?" I blink, but don't answer. Dr. Aurelius motions to the walls of my hospital room, all covered in paintings. They're not on canvas. They don't have that here in 13. Instead, they are painted on cheap, slightly grayish paper that wrinkles as soon as the wet paint touches it. It's been recycled and recycled again. But at least it's paper.
When it's clear that I don't intend to respond, Dr. Aurelius continues. "Do you remember that we gave you your paint box?" I nod. Of course. My paintings are everywhere. "Ga... we had it retrieved from your house in the Victors' Village for you. We hoped that getting you something from your old life, something that was very important for you before, would help in your recovery."
"And does it work?" I ask, giving him a smirk.
"You tell me."
Dr. Aurelius gestures to the wall behind him. "What do you see when you look at these walls?"
I get out of the bed and walk up to a wall. "Mutt", I hiss. My fists open and close. "Stinking, filthy mutt."
I tear the painting down from the wall and look at it, breathing hard as I take in the slender legs, the long, dark braid. The fangs. The twisted face, about to attack me.
Encouraged by Dr. Aurelius, I have tried to find words that can help me figure out who Katniss Everdeen is to me. Was to me. So far I haven't really come up with that many words to describe her.
"Is that what Katniss looks like to you?" I look up at Dr. Aurelius. He's standing next to me, studying the painting, too. "Do you remember making that painting?" Why is he asking me all these questions? They are irrelevant.
"She fucked me," I say. Because that much I do remember. "On the train. In the Capitol. And when we went home to 12, she fucked him, too. In the woods. And more people too, probably. I never found out."
"What's happening in this painting?" Dr. Aurelius says, taking another painting down from the wall. "Are you about to…" he trials off. He won't say the words. Fuck her. He wants to know if I'm about to fuck her.
It's her again. The fangs are gone, but she still has that sneer on her face. There is hatred in her eyes. Contempt, even. She is naked on a bed, I don't know whose bed it is, mine or his. Her thighs are spread, one of her hands is touching her breast, the other is between her legs. The tip of her tongue is visible, licking her lips. There's a shadow falling on her body, it must be from the person standing over her. The person who's watching her pleasure herself, waiting to take her. Me or him?
"I don't… don't know."
"Is this a memory?"
I breathe more deeply now, faster. Blood is rushing down to my cock. I can't tear my eyes off of the painting. Off her. Katniss. Katniss Everdeen. Mutt. Lover. The words I use to describe her.
Finally, I nod.
"Analyze the memory, Peeta, the way we have talked about."
"I don't want to."
"You have to. This could be an important memory. Go back to the first memory you have of intimacy. Is this painting from that first time?"
I shake my head. I point to another painting on the other wall. "No. That one is."
Dr. Aurelius takes it down and gives it to me. "Would you please describe this to me?"
Dark hair spread over the pillow. Long fingernails digging into my back. Pale skin, so hot to the touch. Bared fangs as she throws her head back in ecstasy.
I can't answer.
"Is the memory shiny?" I nod, slowly. "We have agreed that if a memory is shiny, it means it's been tampered with, affected by the trackerjacker venom. Do you remember?"
I can't stop the twitch from running through my body. My fists close around the drawing, curling it into a ball.
"I don't want to think about it." I can't do this.
"Go back to the memory, Peeta. I know it's hard, but I believe you can do it."
I close my eyes, and with a shaky breath, I comply. The memory flows through me – the pain, the pleasure, the humiliation, the passion, the fear. I have to steady myself with one hand on the wall to keep myself from falling.
When I finally open my eyes, Dr. Aurelius is studying me closely. He lifts an eyebrow questioningly. "It's shiny," I finally admit. "It's hard to recognize it at first… But when I concentrate on it, really hard, I see that it's… shiny. In one corner."
Dr. Aurelius nods. "It's likely the Capitol took extra care to plant this memory in your mind."
"Are you sure it's not less shiny because it actually happened? Maybe they only tampered with it a little bit?"
"No, Peeta," Dr. Aurelius says. "It never happened. You and Katniss were never intimate."
"How do you know that?"
"I know because she told me."
"You can't believe a word that she says! She's a liar! She's a stinking, lying mutt!" I scream, charging at the wall, starting to tear the paintings down. "She was pregnant with my baby! Of course we were together! I remember it, I do!"
"There was no baby. It was a lie you told because you wanted to protect her. You tried to protect her because you loved her."
"She killed my baby!"
My fingernails are bleeding from clawing at the walls. I see from the look on Dr. Aurelius's face that he's about to pull out the syringe again. The syringe that allows me to sleep. To escape.
He thinks I don't want it. But, I do.
"I think we should continue this discussion another day, Peeta," he says, his voice calm. He's always calm. "I just have one more thing to show you. Here," he says, handing me another painting.
At first I don't want to look at it. I can't bear to look at more snake-like eyes, sharp fangs, planes of perfect, smooth skin.
My eyes fall on the picture and I gasp. It's not a mutt. It's a girl with a long, dark braid. Unlike the others, which are dramatic in black paint and nearly white paper, this one is a pencil sketch. The shades of gray make it softer somehow, allowing more detail. The girl's hair is a bit messy, a few strands have escaped from the braid, framing her delicate features. She's lying with her head in someone's lap, and somehow I know it's mine. She looks up at me with big, gray eyes, and there's a soft, relaxed smile on her lips.
"Do you recognize this person?"
I can't answer.
"It's Katniss. All these other paintings –" he gestures to the four walls, to the shreds of paper on the floor where I've torn the paintings down – "are of a Capitol mutt that doesn't exist. But this sketch is of the real Katniss."
I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
"You've been painting with little rest for almost two days. We considered sedating you so you'd get some sleep, but we decided to let you keep going to see what you would paint when you were exhausted. We thought it possible that when you're tired and less guarded, you would be able to access memories that are in the darkest recesses of your mind. We hoped that they would be hidden from and untouched by your capturers." He smiles. "It appears we were right. At some point last night, you made this."
"Katniss? She was really lying with her head in my lap, looking… like this?" I can't believe it. Or can I? I shake my head, confused.
"Yes. Katniss. I don't know when it happened, but it did. Katniss will probably tell you about it... if you ask her."
Her eyes follow me. Actually there are hundreds of pairs of them, from every wall, surrounding me, mocking me. I start tearing down paintings again, but there are so many of them, they are everywhere. My vision starts to blur.
"Peeta," Dr. Aurelius says behind me. "You need to get some sleep."
"No nightmares?" I suddenly sound like a scared child.
"No nightmares," he confirms.
I've learned that it's best not to fight. I desperately want dreamless sleep now anyway, an escape, if only for a couple of hours. My body is aching, exhausted from being up for so long.
Dr. Aurelius sits down next to me, rubs the skin of my upper arm swiftly with alcohol, and gives me the injection. It hurts, a little bit, but it's a good kind of pain. "It's going to start taking effect in a few minutes, as usual."
He hands me the sketch he showed me earlier of a happy, relaxed Katniss. My jaw automatically tenses. "There's another thing that we haven't talked about yet, Peeta. Have you noticed what all these paintings have in common? Even this one?"
I shake my head.
"They are all in black and white. You had a whole paint box full of colors, and with them, you could mix any color you wanted. Yet the only color you used, was black. We had to get you more black paint four times. Why do you think that is? Why didn't you use the other colors?"
I still don't answer.
"When you close your eyes and see mutt Katniss… Does she have color?"
"Yes," I whisper.
"Then why didn't you paint her the way you see her in your mind?"
"I have no idea," I say after a long pause. I can feel that the drug is starting to take effect. My legs have started tingling, my head feels heavy.
"Well, consider this..." His index finger trails the braid of the girl in the pencil sketch. "You've painted her in black and white. Even the real memory was a pencil sketch. You haven't used colors, not even once. No one is only good or only bad. Humans don't come in black and white, no one does." He pauses. "If you had to paint Katniss using another color than black, which would you choose?"
"Green." I don't know where that answer comes from, but even as the word escapes my lips, I immediately know it to be true. "She'd wear green." I close my eyes. I can feel how he gently lays me down on the bed. Someone else is there, one of the nurses probably, tucking me in. My fingers are closed around the sketch. No one tries to take it from me.
I want to say more, but my lips won't move. The room slowly fades to black.